The Game: It’s a cold warrior’s nightmare! Enemy submarines glide silently through the seas below, but the only ordnance available isn’t of the guided variety. From a destroyer on the surface of the ocean, players have to carefully drop depth charges; taking out enemy subs will depend on timing and sheer luck. Failing to take out enemy subs – and wasting depth charges – will result in a deadly sinking feeling… (Sega, 1982)
Memories: Sega‘s early attempts to break into the crowded Atari 2600 marketplace were a curious mixture of ports of the company’s arcade titles (Congo Bongo, Star Trek) and curious originals like Sub Scan, which didn’t originate in coin-op form. That’s not to say that Sub Scan has no arcade DNA, though – it’s an attempt to put a new spin on a classic quarter-grabber dating back to the ’70s.
The setup of Sub Scan seems familiar enough at first, with its radar screen offering a slightly-wider-than-the-TV-screen view of the ocean: Sub Scan is simply a non-3-D take on the basic blow-up-the-subs game that had been in circulation since the original Sea Wolf. Rather than putting players behind the gun though, Sub Scan makes them hazard a guess about dropping inert ordnance into the water from above. Once it’s launched, each depth charge is in the hands of gravity. It’s pretty nerve-wracking.
It’s also a bit unrealistic that the subs never fire back! That would add a whole new layer of tension to a game that’s largely a waiting game. But the subs remain passive targets that just happen to be on the move, making Sub Scan equal parts Sea Wolf and Carnival… and just not much of a challenge.